So there I was, 50 years old, and finally able to see a live Beatles concert. Sort of.
I was six years old when the Beatles came to the U.S. for the first time. My older brother Art was 11. Still, there was a brief buzz that my father might take us and our cousins to a Beatles concert. My parents were under the impression that a concert was something attended in an orderly fashion, where people sit calmly in their seats and clap politely after each performance.
Then came the reports of what a real Beatle concert was like and somehow a rumor got started that people were being knifed down in their seats if they got in the way. I’m sure the original story was something about a deep fingernail scratch, but by the time my parents and The Aunts and The Uncles circulated the story, every concert was a blood bath of disemboweled teenagers. So the Beatles returned to England having never experienced an encounter with my family, probably a good thing for the future of the music world.
When Woodstock came around a few years later, my brother, cousins and I once again made a bid to attend a major event. At first the only controversy was my attendance, since I was only 12 and the boys quickly sacrificed me to save themselves. But then those old reliable rumor mills started churning out tales of people having to park in Connecticut and walk into New York State, where they were promptly beaten to a pulp by “those hippie people.” We all stayed home that weekend and played Yahtzee.
I told this to my younger brother John who was a toddler at the time and he shook his head. “What was the matter with you guys? Why didn’t you just get in the car and leave? Weren’t you supposed to be the generation that broke the rules and defied authority? And you missed the most historic concert in the world because your parents said ‘no’?” John was born in 1965, more a Gen-Xer but, because he grew up with us, he’s a sort of Baby Boomer by Association. He’s a little sensitive about his lack of a proper pigeonhole.
Later that year I attended my first rock concert and a few after that, though I was never big on being in a crowd. The last time I was at a concert was 1978: The Cars.
Art and John have continued, normally paying to hear a screeching noise fest of feedback and heart-thumping bass more suited to my sons than responsible tax payers. But it has enabled my sons to go to rock concerts I wouldn’t normally allow them to attend, what with all the carnage you hear about these days.
I was happy to hear that Rain – the Beatles cover band – draws a crowd consisting more of people like me than veterans like my brothers. We all enter the lobby tentatively, sizing up the crowd and then sizing up each other.
My God, don’t tell me I look as old as that.
Oh…she’s not so bad off. Is she my age?
We’re gawking at how we’ve chosen to dress. We’re trying to picture how each other looked when the real Beatles were still touring. It’s really hard because right now we all look like the dazed parents watching their writhing teenagers from the sidelines in the black and white news reels of the Beatles’ arrival in America.
A lot of us have brought our children, who pass each other with sheepish nods, like they’re members of some secret society. Heir 2 has already informed me that he wouldn’t admit to his friends he was going to this concert with me.
“Oh, they think the Beatles are cool. But I told them I was going with Uncle Art and Uncle John,” he said. “They know them and they’re okay.”
“I’m cool,” I whine, proving I’m not.
Exasperated sigh from my son. “Mom, what did you put in your purse just before we left?”
Back in my youth, I’d make sure I had a lighter to hold up for an encore, makeup to be applied at regular intervals and plenty of gum and cash. But for this concert the last things I put in my purse were my cell phone, nose and eye drops, tissues and my asthma inhaler.
Before the concert a tongue-in-cheek announcement comes over the audio system: “There is no smoking in the theater…of anything.” Nervous laughter. This crowd doesn’t look like their parents let them go to Woodstock either.
We applaud politely after each number. We stand, clap in time and sway. We even sing along to Give Peace a Chance, though this outrages the purists among us, since this is technically a Plastic Ono Band (shudder) number and not the Beatles. Some of us – that authority-defying, rule-breaking generation – stole out early to beat the traffic in the parking lot.
And no one had a lighter on them to hold up for an encore.